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Poots: 50% EU recycling target is “not testing enough for Northern Ireland”

Northern Ireland environment minister Edwin Poots could raise the EU’s 2020 landfill diversion target after he described the 50% target as “not testing enough for Northern Ireland”.

Although recycling rates in Northern Ireland currently stand at 36.5%, Poots commented in a Northern Ireland assembly debate that the country was “making real progress”.

Poots said: “My intention is to revisit the targets. I do not think that the 50% target set by the EU is testing enough for Northern Ireland. We should aim for a higher target of 60% of waste or more going for recycling or composting. That would be financially beneficial.”

He added that he was “prepared to look at” systems for rewarding councils who perform well, and punishing councils who fall behind in terms of recycling rates, “so that Northern Ireland is not dragged down by councils who do not step up to the plate.”

A Northern Ireland department for the Environment spokesman said: “The Department is currently finalising its consultation document entitled ‘A New Recycling Policy’ which will address these issues.  The consultation period will end in June.”

WYG director Ben Arnold said: “The Northern Ireland Environment Minister is not alone in believing that communities are capable of achieving higher landfill diversion rates than currently required by European Directive. However it is important to recognise that diversion of waste from landfill is not the same as recycling & composting. There are a variety of processes, such as Energy from Waste which divert waste from landfill but do not in themselves increase recycling.

He added: “As a result of a formal Measure approved in Dec 2010, Wales has now set statutory targets for recycling and composting municipal waste of 64% by 2019-2020. Wales was only achieving 8% recycling in 2002 and has now exceeded 40%.

“Subject to appropriate forward planning and investment there is no over-riding reason why Northern Ireland cannot achieve a level of recycling approaching the statutory target that Wales has already set itself.”

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